by Susan Caplan McCarthy
April - Paper Decluttering
When it comes to labelling files, being too specific is almost as confusing as having no order at all. If you have one or two pieces of paper in a file, you’re being too specific. On the other hand, if you have an inch-thick stack of paper in a single file folder, then the category is too broad.
Think about Retrieving Your Papers
You want to label your files so you can find what you’re looking for when you need it. And, to do that, you want to think about retrieving information as opposed to filing it.
By that, I mean, what do you call that thing you drive? A “car,” “auto,” “automobile,” “C” (for car), “vehicle,” or “2014 Honda CRV?” If you label your file as “vehicle,” you’ll be frantic when you go looking for it under, “car.”
Keep like stuff together. You could label a hanging file folder as “utilities,” and then have manila folders individually labeled as “gas,” “electric,” “phone,” “cable,” “trash,” etc. where you keep a copy of your most current paid bill.
Set Up Hanging File Folders
Think of hanging file folders as grouping similar papers together. “Banks,” “Investments,” “Utilities,” and so on. Manila file folders sit within the hanging file folders and further subdivide the topic into specific banks or accounts or different utilities.
A hanging file folder labeled “auto” could contain file folders broken down into topics such as “car insurance,” “maintenance,” and “payments” (for car payments, taxes, and insurance payments).
Find Files Faster
Keep the plastic tabs on hanging file folders all to the left or all in the center as opposed to trying to stagger them. When you add a folder in the future, you’ll lose this careful presentation. Also, this straight-line filing is supposed to make it easier to find your files since your eyes won’t be skittering back and forth over the tabs.
Keep It Visible
If you are a piler versus a filer, you may struggle to keep the out-of-sight documents in your file cabinet up-to-date. If you prefer to pile things to keep them visible, consider using a file box and keep the cover off.
I keep a file box and I found when I put the cover on, I would pile stuff on top of this flat surface and then it was a hassle to file a document that should have taken just seconds to do so. I keep the cover off the box so I can move papers in and out quickly.
Another option if you want to keep your files out in the open but neat is to consider attaching a vertical file holder to a wall or using a vertical desktop organizer. You’re still filing papers in manila folders, but they are more visible, and you may find it easier to file papers.
Of course, if you like being able to hide your papers and folders from view by putting them in a file cabinet, then keep doing that!
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I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.